The Solitude Project




“I’M MORE OF a person alone,” I’d written to my high school ex soon after our relationship ended, and in the years following, I studied solitude like a discipline in order to make myself actually believe that. When I was 21, a junior in college, I wrote (to myself), “I am unmoored and I’m terrified but I also think only of myself and it’s thrilling.” I’d been reading Susan Sontag’s journals, where she attributed the success of Against Interpretation (1966) to the extended solitary state she found herself in: “Even now — I know my mind has gone a step forward by virtue of being alone the last 2½ years.” I thought she was onto something. Choosing to understand “being alone” as romantic singleness, I considered the emotional immensity of my single extended teenage romance: the ease of having a constant and outside point of reference, the feeling of outside definition, another’s gaze. When I read Sontag, I wondered if the fact that I continued to seek those things out made me weak, or less serious. Maybe if I’d been less obsessed with companionship or attention from men, I would have an idea for a senior thesis, for example.

This endeavor had begun when I’d happened upon an essay by Emily Cooke about the ways some 20th-century female writers, including Sontag and Vivian Gornick, had obsessed over solitude in relation to their work. Because I was unformed but pretentious, a little humorless and at a loss for how to shape my own life beyond the vague sense I wanted to be a writer, I was constantly seeking intellectual mothers. Sontag’s and Gornick’s seriousness and conviction, as described by Cooke, appealed to me. When I turned to those writers myself, I saw how they both framed romantic relationships as simultaneously deeply appealing and a distraction from what they considered their true aims of thinking and writing. As Gornick put it in her 1996 essay “What Feminism Means to Me,” she found that though she “moralized endlessly about seriousness,” she was still unable to fully commit herself to her work: “[I]t seemed I could pursue the man, not the work.”

This resonated deeply: I felt I’d spent far too much time thinking about men and sex, to the detriment of both my schoolwork and my writing, which, to be clear, I never actually did. Sontag, who throughout her life had relationships with both men and women and blamed both for the fact that she was “not a genius,” didn’t explicitly connect her thinking about solitude to her gender. Gornick, however, was active in radical second-wave feminist circles, and much of her writing about singleness or solitude is framed with the terms of those movements. She theorized that the cultural assumption that a woman will get married and be a mother prevents women from having to face what Gornick understood to be a core fact of life:

[T]hat one is alone in this world; that one is never taken care of; that life is a naked battle between fear and desire, and that fear is kept in abeyance only through the recurrent surge of desire; that desire is whetted only if it is reinforced by the capacity to experience oneself; that the capacity to experience oneself is everything.

In order to be an original thinker — a “genius,” as Sontag would have it — a woman must be self-sustaining.

So I ignored that Sontag and Gornick were both writing in mid-20th-century circumstances pretty different from my own, making them my patron saints and framing purposeful solitude to myself as a feminist and artistic project, a strategy for turning myself into a serious writer. As long as I was subject to others’ desires or my desire for others, my autonomy and thus my work would be at risk. I endeavored to thicken my ego, to make sure I was not living at all for love or lovers. In practice, this meant that I isolated myself from my friends, deleted my online dating profiles, and wrote furiously in my journals about loneliness.

I was sometimes betraying these ideals by sleeping with an engineer who seemed only barely attracted to me when we were alone — he never came; I always did, easily and at least once — but who expressed jealousy via text if I hung out with other men. I also found I still felt desperate to tell someone everything that had happened to me all day (there was a rock in my shoe, I hate my friends, I smelled my mother’s drug-store perfume in the lobby, the coffee line took 15 minutes). I felt hurt, despite myself, when the engineer said he just wanted to be friends. I was testing a theory, about my capacity for enforced romantic solitude, and regularly coming up against the edges of it, trying to train myself not to need someone else for my life to make sense but finding I still wanted for something.

¤

I met Jacob a few months into this solitude project, when he came to campus one weekend in April to visit his younger brother, a friend of mine. I immediately had a crush on him. There’s no convincing way to narrate the beginning of an infatuation. So often, by its very nature, it represents a break or recalibration of priorities. And its source: An alchemy of tiny frictions and accordances, outwardly inconsequential things that prop up the lover’s idea of themselves or introduce a new appealing one. Another way to put this is to say that we did molly together, along with his brother and two other boys, and I spent the night hanging on to his every word.

The thing about that kind of connection — via drugs that make you feel intrinsically connected to others and via a crush that does the same by singling out one person as a bright spot — is that it’s hard to recognize when it’s not mutual; as Chris Kraus writes in I Love Dick, infatuation is about “living so intensely in your head that boundaries disappear. It’s a warped omnipotence, a negative psychic power, as if what happens in your head really drives the world outside.” Jacob said my name often in conversation, he seemed to think I was funny. And when I described a molly insight to him — about feeling serious gratitude for the enormous act of faith we were all engaging in by acting like our agreed-upon structure of meaning was in fact approximating communication or connection, the amazement that it ever worked out at all, the way it was making me doubt my commitment to solitude, etc. — he said he knew exactly what I meant. I felt impossibly understood. We would, I was sure, be involved. We might already be involved, for all I knew.

I had recently been reading Kraus’s book, loaned to me by my roommate, and struggling to reconcile my attraction to her project with my ongoing anti-companionship endeavor. Its introduction, written by Eileen Myles, seemed to promise that it would align with my canon of solitude:

I just knew in a quiet way I was ruined. If I agreed to be female. There was so much evidence on the screen and in books. I read Doris Lessing in literature class and that depressed the shit out of me too. I just hated reading work by women or about women because it always added up the same. Loss of self, endless self-abnegation even as the female was trying to be an artist, she wound up pregnant, desperate, waiting on some man. A Marxist guy, perhaps. When would this end. Remarkably it has, right here in this book.

But the book itself was not so resolute about where it stood on the issue of men leading to a “loss of self.” In the epistolary, autofictional work, sold as a novel, Kraus describes meeting Dick, an acquaintance of her husband from their mutual work in academia. She quickly develops a crush and immediately turns her attraction to him into a project, working with her husband to pen letters addressed to Dick that propel and prop up her sexual obsession. The letters are about their encounters (they have several over the course of the book), her fantasies, stories she writes about sending him the letters, stories she writes about publishing the letters; they are also about a vast range of other topics, including the CIA’s involvement in Guatemala, art, and the feminist-art program at CalArts. Most importantly, they are funny and smart and full of insight. Kraus’s obsession with Dick seemed antithetical to the ideals, the seriousness and solitude, I’d been pursuing. There was a way, however, that her insistence on continuing to write to Dick despite his apparent lack of interest synthesized my previously contradictory urges: to be self-contained; and to reach out despite that.

In the days after meeting Jacob, I felt newly open, reminded of that feeling of futurity, a fantasy to lose myself in. Pursuing the man, not the work, not my self — I knew that script. And so I slid easily from commitment to solitude to commitment to a crush.

¤

In May, I moved to New York for the summer, where I lived in a room in my friend’s dad’s Central Park West apartment for which I paid a nominal rent. I worked as an intern at an art magazine, slowly digitizing their archives three days a week, and I babysat on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, a job I suspected I should have felt more qualified for than I did. My charges, ages two and five, made me feel self-conscious, as if the very idea that children should be basically easy to be around made my awkwardness more palpable to me.

Between babysitting and a small allowance from my grandparents, I had budgeted little money for food or anything but rent and a Metrocard, so I ate peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches, sat in cafés that served bottomless coffee, ran in the park, and read borrowed books or old issues of magazines that I stole from my internship. These tasks — earning a little money, exercising, feeding and caffeinating myself — were mere distractions from my main commitment, which was waiting for and thinking about Jacob. In June, I’d learned through his brother, he’d be in New York, too, and then our inevitable romance would begin.

We hadn’t spoken since the weekend he’d spent on campus in April. But I’d passed the intervening weeks thinking about him constantly, writing him letters I didn’t know if I planned to send, inspired by Kraus. I found that I loved this waiting, had a bottomless reserve of patience, in fact would not have minded waiting forever, as long as it concerned Jacob. I was waiting for us to be in the same city, for him to realize he wanted me or maybe just for him to admit it, but I was so certain that these things would happen that I felt no rush to arrive at the time when they would. It wasn’t that the waiting felt good, but more that waiting suited me, in the sense of singular but passive purpose it provided.

I set out on increasingly arduous walks most evenings, making my way in a diagonal from the apartment, through Midtown, to the Lower East Side or down the West Side and across the bottom of the island. I embarked on these walks when I didn’t know what else to do with my body. I learned that walking, like waiting, could fill empty time with a sense of purpose. I avoided social commitments so that I could spend my afternoons lying on the park lawn in the daily strengthening sunlight, dwelling on my scant memories or my abundant fantasies of Jacob, specific daydreams I was concocting or had made up previously — conversations we would have, ways he would look at me, and, especially, ways he would touch me. I wanted him to know how wet these thoughts made me. I thought about his hands, the dark hair on his chest, the way he’d smelled like organic deodorant and also, in a related way, a little like sweat, how he’d said my name, and how I could even hear his voice, clear and heady, when he said it. I could feel the pleasure of these repetitions somewhere behind my eyes, like I’d found a perfect neurological circuit and I was just running and running and running it.

¤

In I Love Dick, Kraus narrates the beginning of her obsession with Dick in the third person: at dinner, “Chris […] notices Dick making continual eye contact with her. Dick’s attention makes her feel powerful.” Later, at Dick’s home with her husband, she “notices that Dick is flirting with her, his vast intelligence straining beyond the po-mo rhetoric and words to evince some essential loneliness that only she and he can share.” This perception of loneliness is a total projection, of course; she barely knows Dick and has no reliable insight into his essence. She recognizes this illusion, though, and that fact is in a sense the instigating dynamic of her whole project — the day after their first encounter, she is in the process of writing about it and how, in infatuation, “the loved person can become a holding pattern for all the tattered ends of memory, experience, and thought you’ve ever had,” when he calls. That negative psychic power, a breaching of the boundaries between what’s going on in your head and in the world outside — how could she not pursue this?

Chris is at a standstill in her career, having just completed a film that looks like it will be a failure. With no other obvious projects to which to devote her energies, she is free to invest herself in Dick, who she calls a “vehicle of escape.” I underlined these lines when I read them, which told me that the enormity of my obsession, the way it took up all my time but didn’t demand any real action from me, was the point: I was procrastinating on my own life. But I also had the sense that by investing seriously in my projection onto Jacob, in the way that my idea of him was actually just a place to put my own shit, I was also continuing something from my original solitude project — everything still began and ended with me. It was just that now, I’d made Jacob into a conduit.

¤

My room in my friend’s dad’s apartment was furnished with a shaky wooden twin bed, from which, laptop resting on bent knees, I conducted my investigation into Jacob, substituting his online representations or traces for actual communication with him. I documented this online stalking for myself, a gesture toward the idea of making a Kraus-inspired work about my infatuation. I Googled his name, his email address, looking for new pieces of information to hold on to and turn over in my mind. I read his old middle-school basketball stats on the 10th page of Google results, found comments he’d written on YouTube videos of Silver Jews songs or on his hometown’s neighborhood message boards, things I’m sure he thought no one would ever read. I bought but did not read La Maison de Rendez-Vous by Alain Robbe-Grillet at the Strand because he posted a picture of the 1967 cover on Facebook. I read somewhere that a person can feel it, psychically, when you’re obsessing over them, but I misread it as “physically,” and imagined Jacob’s skin tingling, his ears burning nonstop for weeks.

I remembered that Jacob had mentioned using a dating site that rated your compatibility with another person based on multiple-choice questions that you answer and scale in terms of their importance to you: “On a certain level, isn’t the prospect of nuclear war exciting?” “Would you cut your partner during sex if they asked you to?” “Could you date someone with different political opinions?” The dating site, like LinkedIn, informed users of their profile views. I made a fake account, set my location to the city where he was presently living, and found him quickly, using a narrow search of age and height. I opened two different browsers, side by side, so that I could be logged into both my fake account and my recently revitalized real account at once, checking his answers to the inane questions using my fake account and answering in accordance on the real one. After a few hours of work, we were a 99 percent match, the highest possible.

When I exhausted all possible Jacob content, I would check Craigslist “Missed Connections” in any neighborhoods I’d been in recently, looking for posts that seemed like they could be about me, but also just enjoying the feeling of intercepting these missives, shots in the dark of interest and curiosity. Like my molly realization, these posts made me feel hopeful and admiring of other people’s investment, the mutual project we were involved in, me with Jacob and these posters with their hoped-for audiences.

Sometimes I worried that I knew too much about him: How much would I have to pretend I didn’t already know once we began to spend time together? Kraus writes that “the ideal reader is one who is in love with the writer” — I combed every possible text about or by Jacob. Within a few weeks of my dating site intervention, I finally got my first unprompted text from him: I can’t believe I have one 99 percent match and it’s someone I already know. BTW I’ll be in New York starting next week, we should hang. I responded with a labored-over I’d love that! 

In the days following, I’d pick up my phone every hour or so, flip it open, and reread his message, lingering on the nearly 30 consecutive words he’d written for me, each leaving a small prick of joy. Once I knew Jacob was in New York, my longing became more pronounced. I no longer felt patient. Long walks transformed into occasions to entertain the fantasy of running into him, getting to tell him that I’d just walked six miles for no reason. I thought he’d recognize the despair in this action, the same way he’d understood me the night we met (a sign of that “essential loneliness that only he and I can share”). Often my walks ended at the East River, looking across it because I knew that’s where he was, in Brooklyn. I’d visualize a string taut from where I was standing, blistered and sweaty, to his bedroom, where I imagined him also sleepless and reckless.

¤

If, in my attraction to Gornick and Sontag, I’d paired them on the basis of their seriousness, their seemingly impenetrable senses of self, I lumped Kraus with Maggie Nelson, whose 2009 book, Bluets, I also read that summer, because of how seriously they treated their romantic relationships. I mean serious here in the same way I mean it when I talk about Sontag or Gornick: serious like academic; serious like rigor. In Bluets, Nelson uses her obsession with the color blue as a lens on her loneliness, an ex-lover, and a friend who has recently experienced a life-altering accident. The book, written to a “you” who sometimes seems to be the general reader and sometimes seems to be the ex-lover, is full of moments of spread-open female desire: lines like, “I am inclined to think that anyone who thinks or talks this way [referring to the notion of ‘pussy-as-lack’] has simply never felt the pulsing of a pussy in serious need of fucking — a pulsing that communicates nothing less than the suckings and ejaculations of the heart” appear alongside reflections on the work of thinkers like Wittgenstein and Goethe.

These days, I Love Dick and Bluets are cult classics and frequently referred to as “autotheory,” a word that as far as I can tell Nelson introduced in The Argonauts (2015), and which she says she got from Paul Preciado. This genre categorization names these writers’ applications of theory and other traditionally academic gazes to personal or affective experiences that aren’t typically granted such attention. As many critics have noted, women do this kind of work more often than men do.

When I first encountered Kraus and Nelson that summer, autotheory as they enacted it seemed to promise it all: I could be a smart, serious woman without denying my interest in love or sex or infatuation. To quote Nelson, I was “interested in having three orifices stuffed full of thick, veiny cock in the most unforgiving of poses and light.” Instead of fighting against this or avoiding companionship like Gornick and Sontag had done (or wanted to do), I could both lean into it and lean away from it by turning my abjection, my femaleness, into a project — “handling [my] vulnerability like philosophy, at some remove,” as Kraus puts it. Of course, as always, the project was just in my mind, a few notes, some screenshots of my stalking. Even once I’d begun to understand how these thinkers open a new way for me to regard my own circumstances, I still wasn’t doing any writing or work of my own.

¤

Jacob suggested, over text, after I’d broken down and asked him to hang out, that we meet for lunch. We met at a hummus restaurant in the West Village (his choice). The day was relatively cool, a breeze softening the city’s summer boil. I got there early and waited outside, looking at my reflection in a nearby storefront and regretting my outfit — I’d tried to look effortless in my black jeans and my friend’s see-through tee, but the borrowed shirt had ruffled sleeves that I suspected revealed how hard I was trying.

I noticed Jacob approaching from down the block, held my breath. He was limping, and for a moment I recognized him the way other people must have seen him: thin, pale, in need of a haircut. But once he reached me, I forgot that perspective, overcome instead by his smell and the feel of his body against mine as we hugged. It was nice to see him. The waitress kept referring to us as you two, and, on the second or third instance of this, he caught my eye and smiled. After lunch, we walked to SoHo and sat watching people play basketball in a park.

After the way I’d felt connected to him on that first night, the conversation was stilted and approximate. We talked for hours, often in circles, but he seemed satisfied with that; I could feel myself burning for more, opening up too much, turning the conversation constantly and clumsily to dating and porn and sex. Eventually, I sensed that we were close to having spent too much time together; the afternoon had passed, and I suddenly announced I had to leave, hoping I was telegraphing just enough indifference to make up for the obvious yearning I’d been feeling. I couldn’t figure out how Jacob felt.

We hung out twice more: once to see a Whit Stillman film and eat pizza, once at a friend’s birthday party when his brother was in town. Then, in July, Jacob came over to my apartment to “hang out.” I understood this to be a signal of our tacit intent, the hangout the entire summer had been building to.

We sat on my windowsill and debated smoking weed even though I’d mostly quit. I was already high when I tried to explain my hesitation: I’m just worried that even though I feel close to you, I don’t actually know you that well, so I’m not sure how it would be to be paranoid around you. Jacob suggested we go on a walk, and once we were outside, away from my roommates, he confronted me with those words: What do you mean when you say you feel close to me?

I rephrased my statement, said something about how we were good friends, had a connection. He asked me again. It seems like there’s something you’re not saying. I suspected that I knew what he was angling for but couldn’t understand why he would do it this way. It seemed so unromantic. I stuttered as we followed the bridle path across the top of the reservoir. Eventually, feeling trapped, I said quietly: I have a crush on you. A beat. Then, he told me he already knew that. I suddenly understood how obvious my desire had been; I had been hinting at it constantly because I’d been so certain that he felt similarly. Do you … ? I couldn’t finish that sentence, either. I’m attracted to a lot of things about you, but I don’t have a crush on you. I had trouble believing this even as he said it; I’d been so certain that it was just a matter of time before we would be together.

His statement didn’t seem definitive, though, and he followed it up with a suggestion I found heartening: Do you want to kiss and see how it goes? We stopped walking in the middle of the path to face each other, stumbling a bit on the uneven ground as we closed the space between us. He was a good, sweet kisser, as I’d suspected he would be, but I felt dizzy and close to tears from the combination of rejection and the sense that I was coercing him. I shivered with nerves, humiliation. We walked back to my apartment making small talk and made out some more on my bed — I even took off my shirt to reveal a lacy designer bra that I’d bought at a close-out sale, a moment with Jacob but nothing like this one in mind — until he said he had to go. I walked him to the door, and when he seemed to be leaving without any formality I let out an involuntary noise, an animal whine that echoed in my ears for hours after. Without meeting my eyes, he dutifully kissed me again and turned quickly to walk out the door.

When I woke up the next morning, I rolled over to look for his scent in my pillow but there was nothing there, not a trace. I tried to remember what his deodorant smelled like, or his breath, or the feeling of his hands, but instead I felt only dread, that though what I’d wanted had technically happened, it had been nothing like what I’d imagined. It was like I had been to the moon, the ocean floor, some world whose signifiers made no sense in the one I lived in now. I could remember the facts of what had happened, but not the sensations of it.

¤

I made sense of this development through the lens of what happened between Chris and Dick midway through I Love Dick. A third of the way through the book, Chris leaves her husband. Dick agrees to see her, as vaguely as possible: when she tells him she’d like to spend time alone with him, he says, “I won’t say no.” So she goes to his house, they talk about the letter project (she’d given him a stack of them on an earlier visit), her experiences in Guatemala, her theory of the usefulness of the case study, how this project itself was a case study. Eventually, after dinner, he asks her: “What do you want? What did you expect by coming here?”

Well, I’d come this far, I was ready for all kinds of trials. So I said, out loud, the obvious. “I want to stay here tonight with you.” And you just kept staring at me, quizzically, wanting more. (Even though I hadn’t slept with anyone but my husband for 12 years, I couldn’t remember sexual negotiations ever being this humiliatingly explicit. But maybe this was good? A jumpcut from the cryptic to the literal?) So finally I said: “I want to sleep with you.” And then: “I want us to have sex together.” You asked me: “Why?”

After some further negotiation — Dick pointing out that Chris doesn’t know him at all, that “[t]here’s no such thing as a good time” — they smoke a joint and end up fucking. The next morning, after they fuck again, they argue about whether they will see each other again while Chris is in town, Dick noting that he doesn’t owe Chris anything.

You barged in here, this was your game, your agenda, now it’s yours to deal with. […] [Y]ou don’t know me! We’ve had two or three evenings! Talked on the phone once or twice! And you project this shit all over me, you kidnap me, you stalk me, invade me with your games, and I don’t want it! I never asked for it! I think you’re evil and psychotic!

All of Chris’s desire, her effort toward constructing this situation, and her painful announcement of what she wanted, in the end amounted to a good fuck quickly undercut by this cruelty from the object of the whole obsessive project. Jacob had been nowhere near as cruel to me, but this was how I felt about what had happened between us: I’d spent months focusing only on this fantasy, and it fell apart before it could even get started, in the most humiliating way possible.

¤

Weeks passed and I didn’t hear from Jacob. If I’d really been following in Kraus’s footsteps, I would have written him several letters in that time, telling him what he’d done from my own perspective. But I resisted being the first to reach out, feeling cowed enough by having had to announce my unreciprocated desire flatly. Instead, I checked Missed Connections every day, wanting to read about other versions of romantic potential or, I guess, to see if he’d posted about me there — the kinship I’d felt between us implied to me that he would seek respite there from our awkwardness just as I had. Of course, I never found anything there that seemed to be about or for me.

On a lunch break from my internship, I sat in a nearby park, thawing from the office air-conditioning in the sun and eating a peanut-butter sandwich. I finally texted Jacob: hey, can we talk? He texted back: hey!! sorry I’m on shrooms right now.

I resolved to entertain other crushes. On the way to meet a man for a date, whose job was that he had a van, I was looking at my reflection in the subway window, assessing my outfit, when I realized that the man next to me had his penis out of his pants and in his hand. We were alone in the car; I gasped, walked to the other end, and got off at the next stop. I texted the man with a van: Can we reschedule? Some guy just jacked off next to me on the train.

I drove into town for this, I promise I won’t jack off next to you. I relented, we ate latkes, and never spoke again. I tried again with a co-intern, a tall, bearded artist and grad student who told me his current project was that he was recording himself reading Moby-Dick aloud in parts. I found his website and listened to some of the recordings. What was the big deal about Moby-Dick? I decided he wasn’t for me.

On Jacob’s birthday, in August, which I knew because I’d quizzed him on his astrological sign (Leo, not a bad match for my Virgo), I called him and left a light-hearted, two-sentence message that I’d written myself a script for. It included a joke about hummus. He called me back within a few hours and read from what sounded like a script, too: Thanks for the birthday message. Sorry it’s been so long, I just felt weird about what happened and was being a coward. Can we just be friends? 

As he spoke, his nervousness as clear as my own, I recognized the limits of my transformation of an infatuation into a project. Here was that project, speaking back to me about how his desires didn’t match mine. I felt limp, ashamed, a little bit disgusting. Sorry I was so intense, I’ve been in a really weird place for the past few months. We don’t have to do that ever again. Jacob seemed to accept my apology easily, and I felt relief when we hung up — it was nice to talk to him without trying to simultaneously obscure and reveal my feelings for him, or to think about my position relative to him as somehow intrinsically female. But I found I still had this energy, a swirling space where that obsession had been. That space was empty now — I was back to where I started, facing down doing the work myself and still not wanting to.

At the end of I Love Dick, Chris and her husband Sylvère receive a FedEx package from Dick. Inside are two envelopes, one for each of them. Chris reads Sylvère’s first, in which there is a letter from Dick outlining his objection to the idea Chris and Sylvère have been working on, of publishing Chris’s letters to him. When she then opens the envelope with her name on it (misspelled as “Kris”), she finds a photocopy of the same letter. Dick is so indifferent to Chris’s existence that he can’t be bothered to write her a letter or even spell her name correctly. However, by this point we’ve read the whole book of the letters; it doesn’t actually matter that Dick doesn’t give a shit because the project is not about him; it’s about her, blowing up her subjectivity to be a whole world.

When Jacob had come over and I’d had to say what I desired, to face what he desired (or didn’t), it had been painful. But it was the only kind of self-possession that I demonstrated in those months, the only way I made good on my desires and my own projects, if a crush is indeed a project. It wasn’t that I needed to be alone or to deprive myself of a romantic life to do good work; or that I needed to turn my straightness or femaleness into an ironic project in order to have both a romantic life and a career. I simply needed to hold myself accountable to all of those things: myself and my work, yes, but also other people, romantically or sexually or just socially. Basically, the only real insight I’d had over all those months of nonstop theorizing over my life and my relationships had been that molly insight — the one about the value of trying toward connection or intimacy even when such endeavors were bound to fail.

¤

That night, after talking to Jacob on the phone, I posted my own w4m Missed Connections ad with a subject line that referenced a Lacanian theory of projection that Jacob had talked to me about — “I’m sorry about what happened. I think we’re friends but maybe you never want to see me again.” No pictures or phone number. Within minutes, emails from other people were filling up my inbox: so if understand correctly, we are friends? you’ve accepted my apology, but you still cannot text me? and you must obviously know i miss speaking with you too right. and I love you and the way that you move. and I wish I knew the best way to express how much I love you through this tenuous form of communication, but alas, it is difficult? Yet you do it so well, yet somehow I let you down and But it isn’t like that. You’ll see. Ignore this email if you didn’t just get my text and You are honestly beautiful and Desire is just another productive force in late capitalism.

I didn’t respond to these messages, because though they were addressed to me, I knew they weren’t about me.

¤

Christina McCausland is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn.

 

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